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Published Date:2017-10-20

Protecting Beach Ecologies: Kinmen National Park Removes Invasive Smooth Cordgrass By Hand

In the course of recent surveys, Kinmen National Park discovered that there was an infestation of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), approximately 50sqm. in size, growing on the outer edge of the Mashan Triangular Bunker. In order to protect the natural ecology, on the 18th of this month (October), the Park organized hand-removal of the growth with hoes and spades. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; doing the work by hand prevents the necessity of causing disruption to the environment by doing removal with heavy machinery later on, after the plant has spread.
Spartina alterniflora, commonly called smooth cordgrass, is resistant to salt and has strong sand-fixing qualities. China imported the plant from the east coast of the United States in 1979. The intention was to protect the coasts, improve soils, green the beaches and improve the beach ecologies. However, the plant has proven far better suited to the coastal ecology than predicted. According to Chinese research, once smooth cordgrass has sent down its compound roots, it grows at the astonishing rate of 100% per year. Once it was introduced to the coasts of Fujian, it spread to Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Guangdong and Shandong. Following the tides and human activity, smooth cordgrass has worked its way to Kinmen.

Ecologically speaking, the invasion of smooth cordgrass gradually turns the plant diversity of the local mudflat and beach intertidal zones into an ecological monoculture. Since its establishment, Kinmen National Park has worked hard to preserve the ecological diversity of Kinmen. Faced with the invasion of smooth cordgrass along Kinmen's coastal areas, the Park conducted a full survey of the distribution of smooth cordgrass in 2007 and put strategies in place to gradually eradicate the plant. Smooth cordgrass is distributed through the intertidal beach areas, which makes movement difficult for staff. The root systems are also well-developed, which makes work difficult. In order to avoid the plant's fast proliferation, eradication over a large area often depends on heavy machinery. This makes it difficult to avoid disruption and damage to the local ecology.

The section of smooth cordgrass discovered this time at Mashan Triangular Bunker hadn't yet expanded. As a result, at low tide, about a dozen Kinmen National Park staff used hand-labor, hoes, and spades to complete removal, over the course of about one afternoon. In order to protect the diverse ecology of Kinmen, Kinmen National Park invites the public to help monitor to surrounding environment. If you discover any common invasive plants such as smooth cordgrass or bitterweed (Parthenium hysterophorus), notify the Park immediately so that we can arrange removal as soon as possible. Prevention on the small scale prevents invasive species from spreading to large areas, and avoids the disruption and damage to the environment necessitated by the use of heavy machinery.
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